Janet Barnes to retire as chief executive of York Museums Trust - Museums Association

Janet Barnes to retire as chief executive of York Museums Trust

Barnes will oversee reopening of York Art Gallery before stepping down in November
Gary Noakes and Rebecca Atkinson
Janet Barnes, the chief executive of York Museums Trust, is to retire at the end of the year after 13 years in the role.

She will leave the trust, which oversees six venues in the city, including Yorkshire Museum and York Art Gallery, on 2 November. This will allow her to remain long enough to oversee the reopening of York Art Gallery in the summer, following a refurbishment that will see exhibition space increased by 60%.
“I want to see it open and realise something that screamed at me from the very start of my time at York – that the gallery should be connected to the museum gardens outside and that so much more could be made of the spaces,” Barnes said. “The next big project will be the Castle Museum, and that will be for my successor to take on and have a vision for.”
Barnes was made a CBE for services to museums in 2014 and given an honorary degree by York University in 2013.

Her departure comes as the trust finds its local authority funding slashed. As previously reported in Museums Journal, the City of York Council will cut funding to York Museums Trust by 50% 2015/16, equal to £500,000. Its overall income has fallen from £1.5m to £600,000 in three years.
York Museums Trust is now proposing to introduce entrance fees across some of its sites through a membership or supporters scheme. Barnes told Museums Journal that this will be considered by the board in March, and is likely to be rolled out before she leaves the organisation.
The scheme is part of wider plans to make the trust more commercially viable, and the trust’s advert for a new chief executive states that it is looking for someone “commercially astute and financially literate” who will be able to “create new income streams in an environment of decreasing local authority and public funding”.
Barnes said: “After 38 years [working in museums] I have seen bad and good times, but there is always a flow, so if we can hold our nerve, keep advocating for museums and keep upping our game, then it will turn again.”
Following her retirement, Barnes will continue to serve on several boards, including the educational charity the Guild of St George and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and will also look at some part- time consultancy work.

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